Interview with Greg Albertyn

By Jean TurnerGreg Albertyn is one of the hardest working, most loved champions our sport has ever seen. His spotlight in the American scene was brief, with only one of his 11 Championship titles in the US. But few can deny that Albertyn has had an unbelievably exciting career. After dominating the motocross scene in South Africa for five years, 17 year-old Albee moved to Europe, and set his sights on the FIM World Motocross Series. Two years later, he won the 125 World Championship. This was followed by two consecutive 250 World Championship titles. After his string of success in Europe, Albertyn was all set to come to the States, his eye fixed on an AMA title. But at the Des Nations in Switzerland that year, a deer ran out in front of him while he was in the lead. It would be the first in a vicious series of crashes and injuries that for three years kept him out of contention. Through relentless hard work and determination, Albertyn silenced the naysayers and earned the 1999 250cc Motocross Championship. But the following year he broke his femur just weeks into the Supercross season, sidelining him for the remainder of the series. He was back in time for the Nationals and put in a very impressive race at Glen Helen, but one week later at Hangtown he tore his ACL. Finally, Albertyn threw in the towel and decided that 2000 was to be his last year in professional motocross. It has been nearly four years since the affable South African retired from motocross. While he still maintains a loyal fan base, we've seen and heard increasingly less from our beloved champion. Many of us forget there is even life after motocross. His glory days may be in the past, but rather than living in hindsight, Albee is as focused on the future as he ever was. His new venture is real estate and property development as well as keeping busy with a new role - father. Yet Albertyn still finds time to go to races, fly airplanes, jet ski and get out on the track every now and then. W got him to tell us about how difficult retirement was, what he's been doing since and what he has planned for the future.How is parenthood treating you? It is absolutely wonderful. Ethan is awesome! He's 8 months old today, he's very cute, and he's crawling all over this year. It has its challenges but it is the most rewarding, fun thing you could ever imagine.Do you still get to go riding often? I'm embarrassed to say that I've ridden four times since the Glen Helen National. I have not much, but I'm definitely planning on getting into it a bit more in the next little while.You got 8th overall at that National. That must have felt pretty good to get right back in and do so well. Well, I didn't really consider 8th to be all that well. My goal was top five. But the track was a lot tougher than I was expecting. We started training 4 or 5 weeks before the race so I definitely wasn't as fit as I needed to be. So the first race I was really struggling, but then the second race I got into a groove and felt a lot better and ended up finishing 6th. That was more like what I was used to.Will you be racing selected Nationals this year? I don't know yet. I'm still up in the air, especially with Glen Helen being in September. But who knows, I wouldn't mind trying out the new Suzuki 450. I've even thought about racing the 250 Grand Prix in South Africa, which is also in September sometime. I haven't ridden in front of my home crowd in ten years or more, so that would be nice.Have you given Supermoto a try? You know, I haven't. Everyone says I should because it's a lot of fun. I wouldn't mind giving it a try, but then if I'm too interested in it, I'd be getting into the whole racing thing again.What are your involvements with Team Suzuki? Do you help the riders with their training? Officially, I'm not at all involved with Suzuki anymore. I'm good friends with everybody and close to Roger and Ian , but I don't work with them at all. Suzuki is still kind enough to give me bikes and I try and represent them as well as I can.What do you think about the Supercross tracks this year? It seems like they've been mixing it up, getting more creative. Yeah, I agree. It's interesting and I think it has surprised a lot of people because it has actually provided for very good racing. I think the tracks have been toned down a little so they're not quite as technical but you're still seeing the same top guys up front. I think that's the important thing. Nobody can deny, other than the first race, every single race has been extremely exciting.So tell us about the property development. Well, I partnered up with a guy who's been doing it about 20 years and what we do is; develop land, get it entitled for homes and either we'll build it ourselves, or sell it to a home builder. The first deal we sold it, and the second deal we're actually building it ourselves in Palm Springs.It seems like you're steering away from being involved with motocross and taking more of a business path. It seems like that, yes. But my heart still is in motocross. I always want to be involved inside the industry. But actually being professionally involved, it's becoming less and less. I still work with Parts Unlimited a little bit and that's very pleasant because I get to go to the races I want, and do rides with some of the dealers across the country. But for the day-to-day stuff, I'm going in a different direction.So where do you see yourself in about 5 years? My goal is to be a future Donald Trump. That really is my goal. I see myself developing and building homes, commercial properties and office buildings - those kinds of things.Where did this interest come from? Real Estate is something I've always been passionate about. Even before I stopped racing, I would drive around, see a vacant piece of land and go, "Wow, I wonder what you could put on there." And then six months later you see an office building going up, or a retail center. I'm in residential development right now because that's what my partner's done for a long time and the residential market in Southern California is booming.Where do you ultimately want to go with that? I have very, very big goals in life. One of my biggest motivations in life is to have enough money so that I can change the world in a positive way. That may sound like a cliche, but coming from Africa, AIDS is a very big problem. There's a lot of hopelessness, and obviously, with money you can help change and make life better. We're actively involved in this ministry called Acres of Love. It focuses on these youngsters in South Africa that have been orphaned. Some of them have AIDS and some of them don't. We help create what they call forever homes and our goal is to give these kids the best chance in life - grow up in a suburban home with swimming pools, give them a college education and give them all the anti retro-viral drugs so that they have a great chance of changing their world. I'm really for helping people; God's put that passion on my heart.Wow! It's amazing that you still have so much planned after you've already accomplished so much. I think that a lot of guys, when they retire from racing, think, "Well that's it. What else could I do? Maybe I'll just get a job in the industry, or live off my winnings." I certainly don't believe that, I think we always need to be trying to better ourselves, trying to grow and extend ourselves. I have big plans for my life, that's for sure.Was retiring a difficult transition for you? I think a lot of people think retiring is probably just an easy thing to do but it has been one of the hardest things I've had to face. It's a tough challenge I think any athlete has to face - or any major profession but particularly athletes - because his entire identity is all wrapped up in his sport and successes. Retiring from it, all of a sudden you're an ex-racer or an ex-athlete. For example, Michael Jordan came back into basketball. It's not because he needed more money or wins. Really, it is because he lost his identity.Was it hard for you to re-direct yourself after retirement? Yeah, it was. You go from racing, and all of a sudden you don't know what to do. And whatever you go into, unless it's the same industry, you're basically starting from scratch. It has its challenges, and you have to find yourself. I'm starting off in Real Estate, and I'm a nobody. Nobody knows who I am other than a few people who follow motocross. You have to constantly knock on doors and make yourself known, basically like starting out in motocross. It's a tough transition and a lot of people paralyzed by fear of the unknown. I'm just encouraged and thankful that the Lord has given me this opportunity. God made provisions for me and opened up those doors.You've gone through some rough periods in your life and you always seemed pretty resilient. Do you attribute that to your faith? Yeah, I really think this transition from retiring would have been a heck of a lot tougher if I didn't have the Lord to depend on. God is my rock. It's not like I'm this great racer, I'm this, that and the next thing. My feet were planted on the rock, so when the storms come and everything shakes up and down, you know who you are and it makes it easier, but it's still very hard, of course.What else do you have going on right now? Well, I also wrote a book since I've quit racing. Hopefully with the momentum that Jeremy has, I can find a publisher that would pick it up. Obviously, I'm not a seven time Supercross champion, but I think my book would probably be interesting because of my totally different background: moving to Europe, moving to the United States, dealing with a whole bunch of different stuff than what Jeremy did, so who knows? There have been so many educational motocross books out there but very few biographies. I think there would probably be room for another one.After you see all these plans to fruition, and become the next Donald Trump, what's after that? Who knows? My life's in the Lord's hands, and I'm not too worried about where I go, as long as I'm making a difference.Do you have any plans for more kids in the future? I would love to. Little Ethan's such a blessing, I would definitely like more kids and grow the family a little bit, yeah. Absolutely.